How to Test Your Laptop's CPU Temperature

Here's how to find out if your laptop is running too hot

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Using a free monitoring program, you can check your laptop's internal temperature, driven mostly by the CPU, to see if it's running too hot and in danger of overheating.

Ideal Laptop Temperatures

The biggest clue that your laptop is not running at an ideal temperature is if you're experiencing any symptoms of overheating, such as the fan constantly running and the computer frequently freezing. But most laptops naturally run hot, so a system utility that can access your laptop's internal temperature sensors can help you decide if you need to take steps to cool your laptop down further.

You can look up temperature specifications for your specific laptop's Intel or AMD processor, but most CPUs' maximum temperatures are around 100° Celsius (212° Fahrenheit). Before you get to that upper limit, though, your laptop will likely have all sorts of performance problems and may be shutting down randomly on its own.

Optimal operating temperature is 50° Celsius (122° Fahrenheit) or below, according to the SpeedFan temperature monitoring program, though many newer processors are comfortable around 70° Celsius (158° Fahrenheit).

Programs to Test Your Laptop's CPU Temperature

Several free temperature monitoring programs are available that can show you the CPU temperature as well as other system details like processor load, voltages, and more. Some of them can also automatically or manually adjust the speed of your laptop's fan for best performance.

Here are a couple that we've used before:

  • SpeedFan: In addition to monitoring fan speeds, voltage, and processor temperatures using your laptop's internal sensors, SpeedFan can also access S.M.A.R.T. info to determine your hard disk's temperatures. The small application offers fan control, charting, and easy-to-understand graphics. Also, don't let this site's 'download' advertisements fool you - the SpeedFan download is a text link called "SpeedFan 4.52" in the Download section.
  • Core Temp: This is one of the more popular temperature monitoring tools out there for laptops and desktops alike. The program is completely portable (i.e. it doesn't need to be installed), supports a wide range of CPUs, and shows the temperature for each core.
  • Real Temp: Real Temp is designed specifically to monitor temperature for all Intel single, dual, and quad core processors. In addition to showing the temperature and load of the processor, it also shows the CPU's safe maximum operating temperature and how far from this maximum temp yours is running at. Real Temp also tracks your highest and lowest temperatures since you opened the program.

For Macs, there is a Temperature Monitor application. Linux users can read the CPU temperature from a shell prompt.